Edward Judd, 1932–2009


Like the creations of the late Oliver Postgate, Edward Judd haunts my childhood imagination via the handful of very British science fiction and sf/horror movies he starred in during the 1960s. He did a great deal of acting before and after this—in the Seventies he was a very ubiquitous TV character actor—but it’s his run of genre films which remains notable. In these roles he was always the stalwart Everyman, usually with another older actor as co-star who supplies the requisite scientific explanations.

The first of these, The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961), was a Val Guest production which followed the success of Guest’s Quatermass films in visiting another space-born calamity upon the world, this time an unprecedented heatwave caused by nuclear tests which throw the earth off its orbit. The film opens with a Ballardesque view of the River Thames parched to a thin stream, and features some great shots later of Judd stumbling through an abandoned, dust-strewn capital. The location work in the Daily Express building on Fleet Street adds to the realism, as does a strong script and decent performances.

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The man who saw tomorrow

quatermass_2.jpgNigel Kneale created reality TV without realising it. Comedian Mark Gatiss recalls his turbulent relationship with the ‘TV colossus’ who died this week.

When Big Brother began on Channel 4 in 2000, I took a principled stand against it. “Don’t they know what they’re doing?” I screamed at the TV. “It’s The Year of the Sex Olympics! Nigel Kneale was right!”

In 1968’s The Year of the Sex Olympics, Kneale, a pioneering writer of TV drama who died this week, ingeniously predicted the future of lowest-common-denominator TV. The programme kept a slavering audience pacified with such blackly funny concepts as The Hungry/Angry Show (in which senile old men throw food at one another), the titular Olympics, and the ultimate programme, in which a family are marooned on an island and then watched on camera, 24 hours a day. Yesterday’s satire is today’s reality. Or today’s reality TV.

A few years ago I tried to persuade The South Bank Show to devote an edition to Kneale, only to be told he wasn’t a “big enough figure”. This was doubly dispiriting, not only because, to anyone interested in TV drama, Kneale is a colossus, but because it seemed to confirm all the writer’s gloomy predictions regarding the future of broadcasting. Couldn’t the medium celebrate one of its giants?

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